Manifest returned from its Wicked break to deliver a close facsimile of the episode I’ve been waiting for, as it sorta put a face to the enigmatic entity (literally) operating in the shadows, while also answering the big question of: What if Ben and Michaela came clean to loved ones about their loopy new existence?
When Cal suddenly develops a nasty fever, he begins spouting a phrase in what most of us later learn is Bulgarian, mixed in with the occasional English reference to a fearsome “red door.” As luck would have it, Saanvi was within earshot of the Bulgarian Flight 828 passenger who said the phrase on board the plane. Did Cal merely overhear it at the time, or is something deeper at play?
Wisely suspecting the latter, Ben sets out to find Marko, the Bulgarian, who to date has been MIA since the flight landed. In fact, Marko is one of nearly a dozen passengers Ben has been unable to track down. Michaela takes a “personal day” (triggering Jared’s eye roll) to help investigate, speaking with the passenger, Anna, who helped translate Marko’s question about a customs form. Anna says she last saw Marko boarding one of five government buses leaving the hangar — and yet all official paperwork only accounts for four buses.
As Michaela chases that lead, in the name of curing Cal, Grace confronts Ben about what is really going on. He confesses that “something happened to us on that flight, and it keeps happening.” And as such, he believes Cal’s fever may be tied into the larger plane mystery. Grace reminds Ben that went down a rabbit hole like this the last time Cal got sick — he shut her out, and then she shut him out. Grace wants things to be different this time, for them to be partners. She also wants them on the same page, so he needs to stop being a scientist and be a father.
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Judging by where the mysterious Bus No. 5 fell off the grid, Michaela susses out some possible remote ,locations where it may have been headed. And she brings Jared with. Upon finding a farmhouse with a conspicuous guardhouse — and armed guards, whose interest they draw — they fake a flat tire, then go about their business, while Mick snaps a photo of some people passing through a (you guessed it) red door. Afterward, having just stumbled upon a well-fortified black site, Jared demands that his ex come clean about what’s what, and she does — case-cracking “voices” and all. She suggests that the Flight 828 passengers have been given “a puzzle to solve,” and Jared hears her out.
Meanwhile as Cal’s fever spikes again and again, we see in quick cutaways that he is “in sync” with a grueling experience that Marko is enduring, at the hands of some scientists. Indeed, Marko and the other bus passengers are being held and experimented on inside the farmhouse. Determined to find Marko, Ben gets himself some face time with NSA Agent Vance, lobbing the photo that Michaela took of a missing passenger, Lena, outside the remote farmhouse. Vance and his men, though, seem to be seeing this for the very first time. So they are of little help. After Ben stomps away, Vance looks up Lena’s file and sees that the “official” account of her current whereabouts — Norway — in no way matches up with Michaela’s photo.
Later, when the ominous farmhouse operation realizes it needs to pack up and relocate, the agonizing procedure on Marko is terminated — and Cal returns to his 98.6-degree self. We then see one of the scientists who had been working on Marko report into his boss over telephone, assuring “ma’am” that their operation will be back up and running soon enough. Vance and his men meanwhile arrive at the near-perfectly vacated farmhouse… save for a stray, fresh Band-Aid from Marko’s arm. At the hospital, Ben, Mick and Saanvi chalk up whatever wound up saving Cal as a “win,” after which Ben sets his sights on a new target: Unified Dynamic Systems, a conglomerate that seems to be far too vested in the missing passengers.
What did you think of the episode “Off Radar”?